When I was a kid, I loved the novel Where the Red Fern Grows. I'm sure I read it at least five times, and I always cried at the ending. Old Dan and Little Ann lived in my young heart, for sure.
There's a bit of miscellany hanging around in the cobwebs of my consciousness from reading and re-reading that book.
About raccoons. About trapping raccoons.
Did you know that if you drill a hole in a log, place something shiny at the bottom of the hole, and insert two nails facing into the hole and at just the right spacing, you've got yourself a trap?
The curious bugger will stick his paw into the hole and grab that shiny thing. He will get stuck. The nails will hold him there.
He could just let go.
But he won't. He's clutching his prize. He can't see the simple escape.
Girl-two used to melt down a lot. I mean, a lot. Like six times a day. (That's a lot.)
She'd spy some shiny thing that she wanted -- a certain snack, more time at the park, a way to sneak out of teeth brushing or room cleaning -- and she'd hang on. Tight. She'd scream for a good.long.time.
I would encourage her to let go. With gentle unwrapping, insistent prying, or creative distraction. Nothing worked.
Until finally, she'd release. It was a decision she made herself. I couldn't bring her there. She'd collect her nuk and blanket and tuck into her bed to regroup.
She still throws wild, unstoppable fits. But they possess her much less frequently. I watch her winding up sometimes, wrapping her fingers around that shiny thing, but five times out of six, she can let go of it before she's completely stuck.
I fluster easily.
Especially when things don't proceed the way I expect.
It's Sunday morning. John is outside with Girl-one and Girl-two, building front-yard sledding tracks for them and taking breaks to rake snow off the roof.
Girl-three sits on my hip and we wave from the front window. They're having fun. I'm glad. But.
But I will need to log in to tutor soon, and I have some other work I want to complete first. Getting it done will mean a bit of free time after the kids are in bed tonight. My prize. But afternoon knocks at the door. It's not going to happen.
And now I've got my fingers wrapped around that shiny thing and I don't want to let go. I feel my teeth start to clench. It's happening. I'm flustering. Getting stuck.
But before a full blown bad mood can cloud my vision completely, I spy that simple escape.
So with a deep breath, I do. Free time clinks softly as it lands on the bottom of the hole. I leave it there while I make lunch and log my tutoring hours. I leave it there while I clean up after dinner and put the kids to bed. I don't miss the feeling of fluster.
And guess what. I got that work done more quickly than I expected once the kids were in bed. I'm holding free time in my hands right now.
I am not a raccoon.